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Minimum Standards for Mineral Prospecting in New South Wales

The New South Wales government has issued minimum standards to be considered by the Department of Regional NSW Mining, Exploration and Geoscience (MEG) when assessing an application for the grant, transfer or renewal of an authority. 

A copy of the standard is available here.

AIG received a copy of the standard dated June 2020 today.

The NSW Government states that holding an authority to explore for minerals in NSW comes with certain rights and responsibilities. MEG expects explorers in NSW to demonstrate a genuine commitment to the sustainable discovery and development of the state’s mineral resources, based on Schedule 1B of the Mining Act 1992 (Mining Act) that allows the decision-maker to take into account minimum standards when assessing an application for the grant, transfer or renewal of an authority. This standard details the mandatory criteria required to meet minimum standards and how MEG will apply them. 

The standards will be applied when assessing an applicant’s proposed work program, and when considering their technical and financial capability to carry out the work program and are intended to foster a commitment to effective and sustainable exploration. 

These criteria: 

  • benchmark applicant credentials, experience and financial capability to explore in NSW 
  • require applicants or transferees to submit geoscientifically and technically appropriate work programs that clearly describe the objectives, rationale and intended outcome of the exploration activities proposed over the term of the title, including environmental management and community consultation 
  • in the case of renewal applications, require authority holders to demonstrate over the preceding term of the authority either of authentic and tangible progress in advancing the geoscientific knowledge of the resource potential of the authority or project area and making reasonable progress in advancing a project towards mining status.

The minimum standards are intended to facilitate informed, consistent and transparent decision-making on exploration licence and assessment lease applications and also provide greater clarity and certainty to applicants and the community on how MEG assesses applications for these authorities. 

The minimum standards apply to applications for all Exploration Licences (EL) and Assessment Leases (AL) under the Mining Act, including for coal authorities. They do not apply to applications for Mining LeasesConsolidated Mining Leases or Mineral Claims (i.e. Group 7 Opals). 

An applicant’s or transferee’s nominated technical manager must have either

  • five or more years’ exploration experience in the mineral group(s) or deposit setting nominated in the proposed work program.
  • membership with a recognised relevant professional organisation (e.g. AusIMM or Australian Institute of Geoscientists) at the minimum level of Fellow

An applicant’s or transferee’s nominated technical manager must have not, at any time, had their membership refused, revoked or suspended by the organisation for conduct-related reasons.  Anapplicant’s or transferee’s nominated technical manager must not have been convicted in the last 10 years of a serious offence under the Mining Act, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 or other relevant legislation or equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions.

Financial capability assessment requires applicant’s and transferee’s:

  • are not bankrupt or in administration; 
  • have sufficient capital currently on hand to meet the forecast expenditure and committed objectives of the entire work program; or
  • have third party commitment for the provision of finance to meet the forecast expenditure and committed objectives of the entire proposed work program; or,
  • their Board Members or Corporate Officers have successfully raised capital in the past for similar exploration programs in NSW or other jurisdictions.

MEG has published separate Work Program Guidelines that outline the expectations for how a work program is prepared in accordance with relevant legislative and regulatory requirements. These are available on the MEG website.   Guidance on how work programme requirements can be met is provided by MEG’s Work Program Guidelines

The guidelines are interpreted to represent explicit documentation of conditions that have previously applied to exploration tenement in New South Wales.  Technical Manager competence requirements, in some respects, are similar to the requirements associated with acting as a Competent Person ion compliance with the JORC Code.  The wording of the competence provisions is ambiguous in that being a Fellow of AIG or AusIMM appears to be optional.  The requirement for not having been subject to disciplinary action by AIG or AusIMM can only be satisfied by Fellows of either Institute.

Further information regarding the guidelines is being sought.  Feedback from Members is welcome.

Do you have a passion for best practice in public reporting of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves?  Expressions of interest are sought from Fellows and Members for a vacancy on the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC).

AIG has four representatives on the JORC Committee, responsible for representing the interests of AIG’s membership and, collaboratively contributing to the ongoing development of the JORC Code and education dealing with its application.  Other committee members are drawn from the committee’s two other parent bodies, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and MInerals Council of Australia (MCA).  The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) are also represented on the committee.  

All public statements of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves made by ASX- and NZSX-listed companies, and all exploration reports submitted to New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals must be prepared by a Competent Person and comply with the minimum requirements set out by the JORC Code.  Compliance with the JORC Code is required of all AIG members in compliance with AIG’s Code of Ethics.

A planned update of the JORC Code has commenced.  A range of issues including competence required to be demonstrated by Competent Persons and the need to ensure that inherent risks revealed by the evaluation of exploration and resource evaluation projects at all stages of development are expected to feature in the update.  The update will feature an extensive stakeholder consultation project, the results of which will be analysed by committee members in recommending improvements to the code.

Expressions of interest are sought from AIG Fellows and Members able to commit to actively participating in the JORC Code update and subsequent stakeholder information and education work.  Interested members should provide a covering letter outlining their interest in participating in the JORC Committee’s work, and a brief curriculum vitae outlining their relevant experience.  Interested members should be able to act as a  Competent Person, as defined by the 2012 edition of the code.

Expressions of interest are also sought from Graduate Members and Members to help to support the revision of the Code, which is expected to provide a great opportunity to gain experience in the development of important professional practices and policies.

Expressions of interest should be submitted to AIG’s Executive Officer, Lynn Vigar, by email prior to 28 August 2020.  Expressions of interest will be considered by the AIG Board which will recommend an applicant for confirmation by the other two JORC parent bodies, ideally at the commitee’s September meeting.

The vacancy has been created by the resignation of Dr Jacqui Coombes (MAIG) from the committee.  Dr Coombes has been a strong advocate for exploration and mining geoscientists in her role as an AIG representative, with a very sound knowledge of the needs of investors and regulators interested in the content and standard of public announcements relating to exploration and mining projects. 

Sincere thanks are extended to Dr Coombes for her valued service to our profession.

SEG webinar presented by Greg Hodges, Sander Geophysics

SEG’s European Region Advisory Committee (ERAC) presented a webinar on “Voodoo Geophysics” examining questionable practices instrumentation systems promoted by individuals and companies in January 2019.

The exploration industry has been plagued since the dawn of technology with near?magical oil, gold and waterfinders. They do untold damage to the reputation and business of honest geophysical applications and research. A geophysicist with sound scientific knowledge can usually recognize when geophysics is “from the dark side”, but it can be difficult to convince non?scientists.

Some common characteristics of voodoo geophysical methods are: dubious theoretical bases, fantastic levels of instrument sensitivity, phenomenally accurate interpretations, extraordinary levels of secrecy, and combative or evasive response to challenges.

Fraudulent methods evade scrutiny. Vendors shy away from technical testing and publication. Refusal of the purveyor of a new system to comply with evaluation and publication of results must be viewed with suspicion.

Greg Hodges has established a “voodoo geophysics” database with more than 80 entries so far. He has previously published on this topic.

The SEG webinar is available via You Tube. The video comprises a presentation, followed by the webinar Q&A session.

Recent personal experience has highlighted the importance of every day document management for geoscientists working in industry or government.

The AIG Code of Ethics requires compliance with professional standards for balanced, material and transparent public reporting of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves (the JORC Code) and valuation of mineral securities (the VALMIN Code).  These codes of practice invariably require production of reports.  But they are not the only activity that requires geoscientists to document interpretations and actions of geological data, or exercise judgement in the course of our work.  Commercial disputes or perceived non-compliance with corporations, privacy and other laws can result in work performed by geoscientists becoming legally discoverable in the course of preparing for court action.  It’s not just the Complaints o Ethics and Standards Committee to which we may need to demonstrate sound professional practice.

There are several measures that have proved to be useful in my experience.

  1. Include a date and version number in every report or substantive document documenting geoscientific judgement or compliance with statutory procedures.  Document versions need to be numbered sequentially and the date of the document should be updated in a manner consistent with document versions.  I condor it good practice to record both the date the document was originally produced, which remains fixed, and a date that the document was last updated, which demonstrates the time period over which the current version of the document evolved.  Something as simple as correcting typing warrants recording a document update with the document version number and date.
  2. Record work related to a project in a notebook.  It pays to use a seperate notebook for major projects that involve public reporting or other substantive work.  I prefer a bound notebook with numbered pages, from which pages can’t be removed without it being noticed.  Notebooks can be discoverable in legal cases, which means that you’ll lose it for the duration of the preparations and hearing of the case.  I stick to paper, but it may be that electronic notebooks nowadays, using software that retains note versions and dates them like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote is a good option.  The potential advantage of these is that discovery may not lead to loss of access to the data, and the notes can be accessed from multiple devices without compromising their integrity.  Keep your paper notebooks private.
  3. File your emails.  Keep everything in an organised, logical manner, even if you think the email is not consequential or significant.  Most email programs offer good, logical filing capabilities and create threads linking messages that are part of particular conversations.
  4. Keep your electronic and paper files, again, in a logical manner and make sure that they are secure.  Access controls and good backups are a must for all electronic data.  Backups must cover you in the event of theft or destruction of both a computer and the premises where it is used.  Cloud services are a good option.  Service providers look after the backup issue and data is stored off-site, but make sure that the terms of use offered by the provider do not compromise your ownership of your data, or permit the service provider to make use of it in any way, especially disclosure of data to third parties.

What is your experience?  Do you have additional experience and ideas that can contribute to good practice by others?  Leave a post on this page to continue the conversation.

Andrew Waltho
18 July 2018

Maintaining the security of personal computer systems is a constant challenge facing all of us.

Recent, global ransomware attacks that affected a number of businesses around the world area high profile example of what can happen if unauthorised, inappropriate access is obtained to any computer used for professional practice purposes.  Members have a professional and ethical responsibility to maintain confidentiality of information that may be commercially sensitive, irrespective of whether you work for a company or are a self employed consultant.

There are many and varied techniques used by people, intent on accessing others’ personal information, data, or simply intent on causing disruption and inconvenience to discuss individually.  There are, however, several basic principles that can be followed to help make your computer and data more secure, to prevent unauthorised access, and resilient if your computer is compromised.

  1. Keep your system software up to date.  New security holes are being regularly identified in all computer operating systems.  Software vendors are usually very responsive in issuing patches to correct identified problems.
  2. Use the latest version of your preferred Internet browser.  Browser software incorporates security features that form part of your computer’s front-line defence.  This has the added attraction of ensuring that your computer remains compatible with web content, which is constantly evolving to use features provided by new standards to enhance the experience of web site users.  If you are experiencing a problem reading on-line content or completing on-line forms, chances are you are using a legacy browser that you should consider updating.
  3. Install and maintain data security software.  There are a number of good security software applications, these days usually sold as a subscription service that includes regular, frequently automatic updates to the data used by this software to detect and deal with potentially malicious content.
  4. Protect your identity.  Don’t give your username and passwords for on-line accounts to anyone.
  5. Don’t open suspicious email attachments.  If you aren’t expecting an attachment from someone, delete the email or set it aside and call the sender to help verify that the attachment is safe. Security software installed on your computer will frequently identify malicious content, but there may be a time lag between new threats to your computer being deployed and your security software being updated to recognise them.  Avoid executable code in email attachments.  This can be embedded in HTML, Office document and Zip archives received as attachments as well as executable files themselves.
  6. Maintain up to date backups of your computer.  Good practice would be to make regular backups, to a disk that can’t be accessed on-line or to a cloud service, or both.  The advantage of using a cloud service is that you can access your data if your computer (and back up disks stored with it) is lost or destroyed (e.g. in a flood or fire), allowing you to get back to work quickly and easily.  Even if you only use a computer for personal reasons, the loss of family photographs or other material stored on it could be catastrophic.

In Australia, internet service providers are not obliged to report intrusions to their systems resulting in unauthorised access to client data.  This is not the case in the USA, Europe and a number of other countries where disclosure can alert Australian users of on-line services to issues.

There are several on-line services that can be used, safely, to check whether your email account has been compromised, which can be a clue to identifying more serious issues where email addresses are used as account names by on-line services.   I regularly check https://haveibeenpwned.com to check whether my email address(es) are known to have been compromised.

Finding your email on one of these lists should prompt you to immediately change your password for the affected account.

Unfortunately, these are issues that we all need to deal with in an on-line world.  Taking a few simple steps can make a big difference when it comes to keeping your data and on-line identity as safe as practicable.

The list of ideas above isn’t exhaustive.  It’s a summary of what I do routinely, day to day, and the measures are not onerous.  Do you have any ideas and experiences to share?  Add a comment to this post using the form below.

Andrew Waltho FAIG, RPGeo
July 2017.